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Universiteitsbibliotheek – LibGuides

Gender Studies in the University Library: Search strategies

Gender studies embraces a range of disciplines, from the Humanities to the Social Sciences.As traditionally all disciplines had their own book collections, the interdisciplinarity if this field of research is a challenge to both librarian and library user

Compass - online training information literacy

After completing the online training of Compass you will have acquired the necessary skills to get started for your assignment or paper. The training consists of four modules, each taking about 30 minutes of your time. You can either take the entire course or work through each of these modules separately:

  • Finding and accessing information
  • Setting up your search
  • Evaluating your sources
  • Saving and using sources

The training is also available in Dutch.

Rules of thumb in using sources

  1. Peer review: controle door wetenschappersUse books written by scholars and scientists (is often mentioned in the book), preferably published by scientific publishers
  2. Choose journal articles from peer reviewed journals (is mentioned in the  journal) over those in non-peer reviewed journals.

If you use other sources, it is extra important to check the scholarly level yourself. Of course, your source needs to be meaningful and relevant, above all.

Other LibGuides

This is only one of our LibGuides containing tips, theory and training modules for searching and using scholarly information. Check the LibGuides on:

Or check the overview of all guides

Search strategy: what, where, how?

Your search strategy defines what you search, where you search and how you perform your search. In the course of your search process you take many decisions that affect the quality of search results and the time needed to get those results.

The main decisions in your search strategy relate to:

  1. What: Think through in advance what information you really need: subject, type of information (analysis, news, statistics, opinion, overview etc.), level and recency. The exact terms you are going to use in your search are of crucial importance.
  2. Where: What you are looking for determines where you should go to find it: unfortunately there is not one search engine or database that has it all.
  3. How: There are various methods of searching. The systematic/bibliographic method (using search terms in scholarly databases) and the snow ball method (finding new information related to what you already have) are the most important. The exact application of these methods depends on the options available in the database or search engine.

The  LibGuide search strategy goes into more details on how to set up succesful search strategies.

How to search? Search methods and techniques

The way you search is a combination of a search method, the accompanying search techniques and the structure of your search.

Search methods:

  • Snowball method: a search that starts from a reference/publication already found (author, references, citations, keywords etc.) . Usually simply by following links in a search engine or literature database, or in the bibliography of a book. You will only find older literature with this method.
  • Citation searching is a special kind of snowball searching in which you follow citation links (f.e. in Google Scholar). You will find more recent literature.
  • Systematic method: searching according to a step-by-step plan to find as many relevant publications as possible. With this method you combine search terms using operators.
  • Catalogue method: entering search terms you thought of yourself in search engines that make literature in a particular collection searchable. For example in WorldCat.

Search techniques:

  • Boolean search: combining and excluding with AND, OR, NOT, NEAR
  • Exact phrase: search by an exact combination of words, often by using double quotes e.g. "climate change"
  • Truncation: searching by the root that a group of words has in common, often by using an asterisk e.g. migrat* for migration, migrated, migratory etc. (not supported by Google)
  • Masking tell the search engine that one or more characters you are not sure about are not necessary for your search
  • Using keywords generated by the authors or by the makers of a search engine
  • Using thesauri: (subject related) overviews showing the relation between professional terms
  • Field specific search: indicate that your terms must occur in a particular part of the publication (title, summary, name of the author). Use 'advanced search' option.
  • Using filters and 'limits': limit your set of results by excluding publications having certain features (for instance filter on language or publication year)

Execution of your search:

  • Start with broad or narrow terms and either zoom in or zoom out
  • Switch to and from your search terms and your search results to improve them
  • Not enough results? Enter fewer and broader terms, use truncation, OR instead of AND, use other source
  • Too many results? Enter more and more specific terms, exact phrase, AND instead of OR, filter (by year for instance)

Academic Writing

Searching for literature is not a goal in itself. You will probably use it when writing an essay. The Writers Manual for modern languages is a good guide on academic writing. The Chicago Manual of Style is another useful source.

In addition, the Skills Lab of Utrecht University offers to help student enhance their writing skills (in English and in Dutch).